Whisky You Can Drink: Monkey Shoulder

Welcome to another edition of Whisky You Can Drink, wherein I drink whisky and tell you about it. Today’s entry is Monkey Shoulder, a “blended malt” Scotch whisky weighing in at 86 proof. True story: “monkey shoulder” was an ailment that befell the workers whose job it was to rake and stir the malting barley, to keep it from developing mold. Imagine creating a line of cotton clothing and calling it “Brown Lung Fashionwear.” But I digress.

Here’s the tricky part of the terminology: “malt whiskey” denotes whisky that is made wholly from malted barley. “Blended whisky” is whisky that is made from malted barley and then blended with other grain spirits. This is “blended malt,” i.e. a blend of three single-malt Speyside whiskies. Speysides are the generally lighter, sweeter, unpeated (not smoky) versions of Scotch whisky. Monkey Shoulder originally contained whisky from the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries; now the content is undisclosed. This bottle cost me $32 on sale, which is a little above my self-imposed limit, but at this price you can definitely still drink it.

What’s it smell like? On the nose, I – “Lemmy, I thought we weren’t going to do this whisky nerd bullshit.” Sorry, my bad. It smells sweet, like honey and banana. There is light fruit and butterscotch, with an underlying scent of oatmeal.

What’s it taste like? On the pal– “Fucking Lemmy!!” Okay, okay. There is a buttery vanilla flavor. It is sweet and spicy, with a notable, lingering cocoa finish. It is slightly astringent, with the typical scratchy feel of a Scotch.

Should you buy it? Don’t let me tell you what to do with your money. I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Will I buy it again? Hell yeah, at the right price. I’m not the biggest Scotch fan, but this one is damn good.

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15 Comments

  1. …I have drunk this one…though not recently…not sure if it would have been long enough ago to have been in the glenfiddich/balvenie days but it was certainly tasty?

    …I don’t know an awful lot about blended scotch but I believe one of the reasons they seldom have an age declared is that legally that can’t be said to be older than their youngest element…& that in some cases they can be a single-malt in the sense of being a blend of different years of a single distillery’s output…I think that’s true of some of the auchentoshan ones but I think most of those would break your price rule

    …johnny walker black label might not, though…& that was pretty good to me when I was younger & less prone to save up for bottles of booze…it generally seems to call itself a 12yr old despite the blended thing…have you run across that at all?

    • I believe one of the reasons they seldom have an age declared is that legally that can’t be said to be older than their youngest element

      This is correct, or the age statement can only reflect the youngest element.

      In some cases they can be a single-malt in the sense of being a blend of different years of a single distillery’s output

      Not sure.  I get the laws confused.  “Single” does denote that it comes from a single distillery.  Not sure if it has to be from a single season as well;  “Bottled in bond” bourbons do.

      johnny walker black label might not, though

      I hear from people who know these things that Johnny Black can contain up to 40 different whiskies.  It’s in the low-$30 range when on sale where I live.

      • …I could be wrong because I think from time to time they make actual rules about this stuff that I don’t keep up to speed with but I think the first time someone made “vatted” whisky it was with multiple years of glenlivet (many moons ago) & that blended whisky may contain different (non-malt-type) things but blended malts are more usually a mixture of stuff from more than one distillery

        …the auchentoshan stuff I don’t think is the only variety that’s different years from one source but I’m fairly certain that’s how they do at least some of their stuff…I think their “bartender’s blend” claimed to span five decades a while back…the youngest bit being 9yrs…so presumably the oldest would have been at least a trace of something over 40?

        …it might just be that they like to be different…I think I remember reading something about that label being started by irish folks who’d settled near glasgow…either way I have find recollections of their triple-wood, for whatever that might be worth

  2. @LemmyKilmister please do nerd out. Between you and @SplinterRIP, you gentlemen have not steered me wrong. Also, since we are pandemic-isolated and spend no money to go out, I now have a whisky budget…and darn it all, I am going to use it! Opening the Elijah Craig today, from your prior recommendations. You are doing God’s work, my friend. 

    • Elijah is the exact same mash bill as Evan Williams.  In fact, most Heaven Hill products are, IIRC. 
      I’m passing through New Hampshire this week and going to try to pick up a bottle of Eagle Rare.

      • And I’m pretty new to this “really paying attention to the whiskey” stuff, so that’s why I’m not trying to sound like a self-appointed expert.  Got tired of the price of decent beer and the “what variation of IPA can we come up with this week?” mentality.  My local store has about 100 beers and at least 70 of them must be IPAs. Seems like it, anyways. Yawn.

  3. One of our ewes just gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.  I’m not good at posting photos here, but I’ll give it a shot.  The babies were a week or so early, but are fully formed and perfectly healthy.  

  4. The name really annoys me. It’s not their fault, it’s just that the injury got named because men would injure themselves and have their arms hang down and it reminded people of chimpanzee arms.

    Chimpanzees are not monkeys. They are apes. 

    See also: I hate the term monkey bars for playground equipment because apes are the ones with brachiating shoulder joints. not monkeys. 

  5. lol, I make a variation of the negroni with it using mezcal, agavero and lillet(?) and it is good in that. I’ll have to dig up the actual recipe.

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